Jessica and I recently enjoyed a panel discussion at Pull The Weeds, an exhibition and event centered around purpose-driven branding hosted by FIRNW. Kirk Souder, Thom Walters, and Jen Michaelis Van Arkel shared their thoughts about what drives branding when social good is at the center of the organization.
The most obvious purpose-driven brands are the ones that are engaged in social change–particularly organizations in the non-profit sector, organizations that do good. But, purpose is important to every brand. Walters commented, “we’re moving into an economy of influence and experience.” Today’s consumers are active and engaged, and they choose the brands that align with their own personal values. In our digital world, access to a company’s values and impact on the world is merely a click away. Consumers won’t fall for a veneer of good–they’re informed and insightful, and they demand authenticity.
Many small businesses and entrepreneurs also set out on their path because they have a hope to live out their own purpose, and do work that aligns with their own values. Walters believes that, “brands are living entities; they have souls,” and they’re constantly evolving. And, that makes a lot of sense, because your business is also constantly evolving.
Simply put: what your business brand needs right now may not be the same as what it’ll need a year from now. And, as Souder phrased it, “the alignment between the soul of your brand and the soul of the people,” is key to building a brand that’s strong and that will grow with your business. It’s a good idea to check in with yourself every so often, and see if and how your business and your values have changed.
And, when you connect your business with doing good in the community, you’re doing something that can have an incredible and lasting power! Many non-profit organizations that focus on community work can only do it through grants and charitable donations, but a business already has an income, and is already self-sustaining. As Souder notes, “if you can tie a plow to [for-profit companies] to do good… they’ll be able to do it without a constant influx of philanthropy.”
And, as Michaelis Van Arkel stated, “it’s not necessarily about size.” To her firm, the size of the business is less important than the strength of their desire to do good. When your potential clients and customers share your values, they’ll still be drawn to you and be more likely to choose you, no matter how big or small your business might be.
Considering your company’s impact on the world isn’t just good for the world, it’s also good for your bottom line. By addressing society’s challenges, you have the opportunity to create shared value. You have an opportunity to create an economy of sustainable change by looking for what’s culturally relevant, and tapping into that.